Iraq: The Choice

Iraq: The Choice December 7, 2006

In a recent interview with Miroslav Volf I asked the theologian,
"If you could talk to Bush and recommend a course of action in Iraq that would begin to solve the Iraq dilemma, what
would you recommend?"

Miroslav Volf, author of the award-winning treatise, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological
Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation
, stepped to the
podium of the United Nations (UN) Christian Assembly Prayer Breakfast and began
his remarks with the first stanza of a poem written by a young Jewish poet soon
after World War II:


Black milk of

We drink it at

We drink it at midday
and morning.

We drink it at night.

We drink and we drink.

We shovel a grave in
the air.

There you won't lie
all too cramped.

A man lives in the

He plays with his

He writes.

He writes when it
grows dark to Germany,

Of your golden-haired

He writes it and steps
out of doors.

And the stars are all

He whistles his hounds
to come close.

He whistles his Jews
into rows,

Has them shovel a
grave in the ground.

He commands us "play
up for the dance."


With the authority of one marked by the terror of the Balkan's inter-ethnic wars, Volf's address illuminated the single most pressing choice
facing the world in the 21st century – Will we exclude
or embrace the other?


Volf was unable to finish his remarks that day. It was the morning of September 11, 2001. The crisis taking place only 2 miles away was
shoveling nearly 3000 graves into the air
over lower Manhattan.


Immediately, America
and the world faced the 21st century's choice.


Rather than humbly asking the deeper question: "What
American policies could drive young men to even think to kill themselves and
3000 others?" Bush chose bravado.


Within hours of the attack, Bush announced: "America was
targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and
opportunity in the world." Then he vowed


Never did the administration practice "embrace" by launching
major diplomatic initiatives with "the other."
Nor did it practice humility by asking questions of its own mid-east


Instead, Bush barreled the U.S. toward the ultimate exclusive
act – war.


The Iraq
war was illegal, according to many international legal scholars. It was pursued under false pretense, with no
consent from the UN, torture was employed as a weapon of war, and the war violated the rules of proportional response. (3000 Americans died on 9/11/01 as a result of one organization's terrorist plot. 655,000 Iraqis
have died as a direct or indirect result of the U.S. invasion of their


Now, the war has failed and rather than solving the problem
of terrorism it has exacerbated it.


On December 6, The Iraq Study Group (ISG), co-chaired by
elder statesmen James Baker and Lee Hamilton, clarified America's current choices.  We can stay the course and fail or we can
turn 180 degrees, "chart a new course of action," and have a chance of success.


In fact, the ISG has called Bush to do the very things he
should have done in the first place. The
Group has called him to exclude partisan "code words" and embrace "reality". It has called him to embrace "the other" by
earnestly engaging the Israel
/ Palestine
conflict. Hamilton noted, in a late-night interview
with Anderson Cooper, that one cannot ignore the "essential connection between
the Arab/Israeli conflict and the situation in the rest of the [mid-east] region."


The Group has also called Bush to a radical diplomatic form
of embrace. "You talk to your enemies,
not just your friends," said Baker during the briefing's Q & A


Hamilton explained, "We will
be criticized, I'm sure, for talking to our adversaries [Iran and Syria] but I do not see how you
solve this problem without talking to them."


Most important, the ISG called for a gradual pull-out of
combat troops to be completed by the first quarter of 2008.


Many reporters throughout the day speculated: "Would Bush be
capable of making this 180 degree turn?"


What an interesting question to ask of a "Christian" leader:  Is he capable of repentance?


At the core of our faith is the cross. It is the single most
powerful thing that makes it possible for us to admit we were wrong, to
acknowledge our failures, to face our sin. 
Repentance brings reconciliation with God and others. It brings healing to relationships. And it's not just saying "I'm sorry." It's doing it. It is that 180 degree turn.


In a recent interview with Miroslav Volf I asked the theologian,
"If you could talk to Bush and recommend a course of action in Iraq that would begin to solve the Iraq dilemma, what
would you recommend?"


Volf said, "Repent."

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